14 African American Women Leading Change in the U.S. Food System

According to the 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses report, the number of women-owned businesses increased by 58 percent from 2007 to 2018. From this, businesses owned by African-American women grew by 164 percent, which is equal to 20 percent of all women-owned businesses. Not only does this provide a huge boost to the economy, it can create jobs in local communities. Food Tank has compiled a list of 14 African-American female entrepreneurs who have incorporated sustainable food production practices into their business motto.

Lynnette Astaire

Based out of Los Angeles, Lynette Astaire saw a gap that needed to be filled in food education and decided to open Superfood School. As part of the program at Superfood School, Astaire conducts one-on-one consults for meal planning and advice. Additionally, clients are able to attend retreats at LiveLoft, located on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, to undergo a detox, where they receive juices and raw meals made from local produce and items grown on-site.

Tamala Austin

Located in Houston, Texas, Tamala Austin is the founder of J.I.V.E., which stands for Juicing is very essential. What started off as a home-based business is now located in Whole Foods stores in Houston. J.I.V.E. offers organic juices and smoothies, with both vegetarian and vegan options. Austin hopes to educate customers on the transition and maintenance of a healthy lifestyle that is enjoyable and sustainable.

Erika Boyd & Kirsten Ussery

Erika Boyd and Kirsten Ussery are co-owners of Detroit Vegan Soul. Ussery is general manger and in house baker and Boyd is the executive chef. The two saw that there was a lack of accessibility to good, nutritious food available to the people of their community and took it upon themselves to prove that it is possible to eat good tasting comfort foods that are also healthy. What started as a meal delivery and catering service in Downtown Detroit quickly became a full-fledged restaurant, which can now be found at two locations in Detroit. What makes Ussery and Boyd unique is that they are always putting eco-friendly practices at the forefront of their decisions making. For example, all produce used in the restaurant is sourced from local organic farmers and all food waste generated at the restaurant is returned to the farms and used as compost.

Francesca Chaney

What started as a means of creating healthy and nutritious beverages in a pinch became a full-time career for the owner of Sol Sips in Brooklyn, New York, Francesca Chaney. At first, Chaney made organic drinks using a maximum of four ingredients and sold them at pop-up events. She quickly realized that there was demand for healthy, simple and nutritious foods and beverages and made the decision to open her own business. Chaney wants everyone in her community to have the opportunity to enjoy healthy foods, which is why she implemented a sliding scale brunch every Saturday, where customers pay between US$7 and US$15, whatever they can comfortably afford.

Julia Collins

Julia Collins is co-founder and President of Zume Pizza located in Mountain view, California, a food company that is best known for its use of robotic technology to create healthy accessible food. Unlike most delivery pizza, Zume Pizza is cooked en-route to its destination, with no added sugars or chemicals. All of the ingredients found in their pizza is sourced from local farmers that use sustainable and ethical farming practices. And although they utilize robots in their production chain to perform the more dangerous jobs, like removing the pizza’s from the oven, Zume Pizza is conscientious of job creation and hopes that by sourcing ingredients from local farms, more companies will follow suite, resulting in more business to local farms. Additionally, although automation is generally associated with job loss, historically, advancements in technology have led to job creation. With the cost savings through the use of automation, Zume Pizza is able to pay their employees liveable wages (US$18/hour) and all of their employees have fully subsidized health insurance plans.

Tanya Fields

As founder and executive director of The Black Feminist Project, Tanya Fields is a food justice activist and educator. And Fields started the Libertad Urban Farm, an organic urban garden in the Bronx, as an effort to address the lack of nutritious food and food education accessible to low-income people, specifically underserved women of color. Additionally, Fields works closely with The Hunts Point Farm Share, connecting city residents to high quality local produce through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

Jinji Fraser

Located in Baltimore, Pure chocolate by Jinji was co-founded in 2012 by Jinji Fraser. Fraser sources the cacao used to make the chocolate through growers in Ecuador who she personally met. Knowing who was growing the beans and that they were being treated well was her primary concern, along with knowing that the cacao was grown sustainably by ensuring the region was well suited for cacao growth. Fraser intentionally selects seasonal ingredients from local providers and every chocolate is handcrafted and free from dairy products and all refined sugars. Continue reading…

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